My mother has a recurring dream of being back on the street where she grew up in Bucharest. In her dream, she walks toward her house, looking for a certain familiar crack where the pavement split open and grass grew out. She thinks if she can just find this crack, then she’ll be able to reorient herself -- that the city will fall into place. Instead, she can’t find the crack, nothing looks familiar, and she can’t find her house.
In communist Romania 1959, my maternal grandmother, Monica Sevianu, took part in a failed bank robbery and was condemned to life in prison. Forty years later, I returned to Bucharest to reassemble the pieces of her shocking story and construct a portrait of my estranged and enigmatic grandmother. RECONSTRUCTION (90 minutes, 2001) is built around the event of the so-called Ioanid Gang bank heist-- and the subsequent production of a government-sponsored propaganda film in which the bank heist perpetrators were forced to re-enact their own crime on camera (also called Reconstruction). An investigation of intimate family memories expands into a meditation on how a regime invents itself through the images it produces -- an exploration of representation, reality, and authoritarianism. Through a combination of archival images, contemporary images, interview, and observational footage, RECONSTRUCTION addresses questions about images, truth, and political theater.
"Vivid, thrilling...a film of ambition and scope" - The Boston Phoenix.
"This amazing feature... should screen at film schools as an example of personal documentary at its best." - Variety
"Lusztig's version of the 'facts' unfolds as a sophisticated, poetic reflection on portraiture and historical detective work... Lusztig's film is a long-awaited gift...Reconstruction is a necessary 're-writing' of history." - DOX magazine
- Boston Society of Film Critics “Rediscoveries / Discoveries” Award (2001)
- Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA (April 2010)
Boston Phoenix review of Reconstruction
"Reconstructing the Romanian Past" - Maria Gambale interviews me about Reconstruction for newenglandfilm.com.